The Trump administration began denying visas to same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations employees Monday, the latest chip at LGBTQ rights in the United States.
The only way same-sex partners will be legally recognized and allowed to stay in the country moving forward is if the couple is married, regardless of what the laws in their home countries allow.
The move is a reversal of a 2009 State Department directive that granted visas to the same-sex domestic partners of foreign workers.
Couples will have only three months to make the decision to marry. After December 31, they will have to show proof of marriage or leave the country within 30 days. “As of 1 October 2018, same-sex domestic partners… seeking to join newly arrived U.N. officials must provide proof of marriage to eligible for a G-4 visa or to seek a change in such status,” the new guidance states.
At least 10 U.N. employees are impacted by the change, meaning they must marry in the coming months if they want their partners to be able to stay with them.
The policy change purports “to help ensure and promote equal treatment” for all couples. However, because the world does not treat all couples equally, the new directive means the United States will essentially be punishing people based on nationality. Only 12 percent of U.N. member countries — a total of 25 countries — recognize marriage equality for same-sex couples. In at least 70 others, homosexuality is criminalized.
“If that’s how you advance equality between same-sex and opposite sex partners, then we have an enormous problem on our hands,” said David Pressman, who served as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Security Council for special political affairs during the Obama administration. He went on to call it a “creative and cynical way to use the expansion of equality at home to vindictively target same-sex couples abroad.”
Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called the change “needlessly cruel & bigoted.”
Needlessly cruel & bigoted: State Dept. will no longer let same-sex domestic partners of UN employees get visas unless they are married. But only 12% of UN member states allow same-sex marriage. https://t.co/MjZpRVLYcf
— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) September 28, 2018
The United States told foreign governments that “limited exceptions” would be allowed for diplomats from countries that don’t have marriage equality, but no such exceptions were offered to U.N. officials.
U.N. Globe, the U.N.’s LGBTI staff organization, has condemned the decision.
“It is an unfortunate change in rules, since same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited choices when it comes to marriage,” the group wrote last week, prior to the policy change.